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Archive of February 23, 2007

Pope Benedict emphasizes importance of new religious movements need for a balanced priestly life

Rome, Italy, Feb 23, 2007 (CNA) - During a meeting held yesterday morning in the Vatican with pastors of the diocese of Rome, the Holy Father answered a number of questions addressed to him by priests on numerous matters.  During the discussion the Holy Father told his priests to do their best to support new ecclesial movements and emphasized the need to find a healthy balance between their pastoral and spiritual lives.  The Pontiff went so far as to confess his own preference for morning prayer time.

Answering a question put by a priest from the Roman Shrine of "Divino Amore," the Pope highlighted how such places enable people to participate in an experience of prayer that has extended over generations and centuries, and he stressed the value of popular piety and Marian devotion.

Another priest asked about ecclesial movements. In his answer, the Pope referred to the need for dialogue at all levels while taking care "not to extinguish the charisms. ... If the Lord gives us new gifts, we must be grateful even if they are difficult. It is good that they arise without an initiative from the hierarchy. They result from grassroots initiatives," but such initiatives also "come from on high, in other words from the gifts of the Holy Spirit."

During the course of the meeting, Benedict XVI also recalled the spiritual nature of the Church which, he said, "is the body of Christ, and hence a spiritual body, as St. Paul says. The Church is not an international organization; she is not an executive body or an organ of power. Nor is she a social agency, though she does undertake social work, but a spiritual body."

Speaking of the need to balance the spiritual and pastoral dimensions, Benedict XVI commented that "the Gospels tell us that during the day He worked, at night He was on the mountain with His Father and He prayed. Here I must confess my own weakness because at night I cannot pray, I want to sleep ... but seriously we must nonetheless find free time for the Lord."

The Pope also mentioned sacred art, which he described as a living catechesis. The richness of religious art, he added, shows that the Church "has always been a source of inspiration."

Youth ministry and Sacred Scripture
As previously reported by CNA, a large part of Benedict XVI's reflections were dedicated to the subject of the pastoral care of the young. "Young people," he said, "must truly be a priority in our pastoral activities, because youth live in a world very distant from God. In such a cultural context, it is difficult to meet Christ and to live a Christian life of faith. The young need to be closely accompanied in order to find this path."

In answer to another question, the Holy Father emphasized the importance of reading Holy Scripture, a subject that is due to be the theme of the next Synod of Bishops in October 2008. The Bible, he said, "must be read as a whole." It represents a single path and, "in Christ we find the key to everything." Holy Scripture is a journey that leads only one way because "it leads to the Cross of Christ." For this reason, he went on, it must be read not only in its historical and Christological dimensions, but also in an ecclesial light, "because all its passages are footsteps of the people of God."

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Experts claim former Paraguayan bishop is in state of rebellion and running an unconstitutional campaign

Lima, Peru, Feb 23, 2007 (CNA) - Experts in Canon Law consulted by CNA – including some from Paraguay who preferred to remain anonymous - have confirmed that from the standpoint of the Code of Canon Law former Bishop Fernando Lugo is in a state of rebellion against the Catholic Church.  Lugo, who is running for his country’s presidency, is also constitutionally impeded from participating in politics according to the experts.

The background

In 2005, Bishop Fernando Lugo resigned as ordinary of the Diocese of San Pedro, and assumed the title of Bishop Emeritus.  On March 29th the former bishop launched himself into the political realm by leading a protest in Asuncion and was soon after asked by Pedro Fadul Niella, leader of the “Patria Querida” (Beloved Homeland) political party, to lead a national unity coalition with the goal of promoting Lugo as the single presidential candidate during the 2008 elections.  

As he began to take a greater role in Patria Querida’s politics the bishop began preparing a letter requesting his release from the clerical state.  That letter, asking the Vatican to officially announce that he would no longer be considered a bishop or priest was eventually sent on December 18, 2006.  At the same time that the was writing the letter, however, the bishop was still participating liturgical events, such as the diocesan celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Caacupe on December 8.

On December 21st , Bishop Lugo received a private letter from Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, asking him not to accept the a nomination to run for the Presidency of Paraguay and warning him that if he went ahead he would be subject, “as a first step, to the canonical penalty of suspension, which prohibits sacred ministers from exercising all or some of the acts of the power of order and of the power of governance, as outlined in canon 1333, § 1.”

Ignoring this warning, Bishop Lugo publicly announced on December 25th 2006, his intentions to enter the political arena, whether in an insignificant role or “as a candidate for President of the Republic.”

On January 4th, Cardinal Re officially responded to the letter sent by Bishop Lugo on December 18th.  The Cardinal said that the Holy See did not accept his reasons and that “the Holy Father does not deem it possible to accept the request for release from the clerical state presented by Your Excellency.”  Re’s letter invited him to remain faithful to his divine vocation and to his apostolic mission.

Since that time Bishop Lugo continued to be actively involved in politics, thus bringing about a statement from the Congregation for Bishops, which on January 20th 2007, decreed his suspension from public ministry and notified him that “with this penal sanction you remain in the clerical state and are still obligated by the duties inherit therein, although you are suspended from the exercise of the sacred ministry.”

The Bishops’ Conference of Paraguay issued a statement of supporting the decree of the Congregation for Bishops without further commentary.

Answers from the Vatican

Canonists note that Canon 287 of the Code of Canon Law states that clerics “are not to have an active part in political parties and in governing labor unions unless, in the judgment of competent ecclesiastical authority, the protection of the rights of the Church or the promotion of the common good requires it.”

Bishop Lugo argued that his release from the clerical state was for the common good, which earned him the following response from the Holy See in its letter of January 4th, 2007:  “You cite canon 287, § 2 of the Code of Canon Law in order to take an active role in politics, but the exception to the general prohibition set forth in the aforementioned canon is not applicable in your case.”

“The collaboration of the bishop,” the letter from the Vatican continued, “in procuring the good of civil society should always be carried out in a pastoral manner, acting as father, brother and friend and helping with his ministry to build pathways of justice and of reconciliation, as is rightly outlined in the Apostolic Exhortation ‘Pastores gregis.’”
 
Moreover, the letter from Cardinal Re emphasized, “In light of such considerations, you surely understand how much the service of bishops differs from that of the person who exercises a political role.  You rightly observe that politics is a form of charity, but it has its own role, laws and ends, quite distinct from the mission of a bishop, who is called to illuminate all areas of society with the Gospel and to form consciences.  The bishop’s task is to proclaim Christian hope, in order to defend the dignity of each person, to protect and proclaim with firmness those values that the Holy Father has defined as ‘non-negotiables’.”

Another argument used by Bishop Lugo was based on canon 187, which says, “Anyone responsible for oneself (sui compos) can resign from an ecclesiastical office for a just cause.”

Cardinal Re responded to this argument saying, “In your letter, citing canon 187, Your Excellency ‘resigns from the ecclesial ministry’ in order to ‘return to the lay state in the Church.’  This canon is not congruent with your request, in that it refers to the resignation ‘from an ecclesiastical office,’ which is something very different from the clerical state that originates in sacred ordination.”

“You know well,” the letter stated, “that one sacred ordinations is validly received, it cannot be annulled and it cannot even be suspended ‘ad tempos’, as the Sacrament of Orders imprints an indelible and permanent character (canon 1008).”


The experts speak

Experts consulted by CNA note that canon 290 states, “Once validly received, sacred ordination never becomes invalid. A cleric, nevertheless, loses the clerical state: 1) by a judicial sentence or administrative decree, which declares the invalidity of sacred ordination; 2) by the penalty of dismissal lawfully imposed; 3) by rescript of the Apostolic See which grants it to deacons only for grave causes and to presbyters only for most grave causes.”

They also noted that suspension from the clerical state “is never granted to bishops, as the fullness of the priesthood received in episcopal ordination demands the maximum degree of fidelity to Christ and to the Church for all of one’s life, as well as consistency with the obligations freely assumed during priestly ordination, and more so during episcopal ordination.”

This is the irrefutable canonical reason for which, according to the experts, Cardinal Re concludes his letter emphatically: “I must fulfill my duty to notify you that the Holy Father does not deem it possible to accept the request for release from the clerical state presented by Your Excellency.”

Bishop Lugo “has lost his rights but not his obligations.  The only way to lose his rights and obligations is through interdict, which is almost excommunication, and through excommunication from the Mystical Body.  He is also released from all obligations and rights if he decides to apostatize from the faith,” experts said.

Moreover, as bishop, he continues to be a minister of the Catholic Church and therefore is constitutionally impeded from exercising any political function.

According to experts, the very fact of being a minister of the Catholic Church constitutes an impediment to participating as a political candidate according to current law in Paraguay. 

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Fr. Kolvenbach could remain at head of Jesuits

Vatican City, Feb 23, 2007 (CNA) - Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, SJ, who was previously expected to step down as Superior General of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) after their General Congregation scheduled for January 5, 2008, could now remain the Jesuit superior after Pope Benedict XVI expressed his opinion.

Fr. Kovenbach, officially convoked the 35th General Congregation with a written communicaton dated February 2nd 2006.  In his letter the Jesuit superior announced that the Jesuit summit would elect a new Superior General.

Now however, less than a month before the fourteen members of the "Coetus Praevius" meet in Rome on March 15th to study and organize the approximately 350 proposals sent by the Provincial Congregations in preparation for the Congregation, Fr. Kolvenbach has sent a letter to the world’s Jesuit superiors communicating Pope Benedict's wish that the Jesuit Superior General's term remain a lifetime one, but with "provisions for stepping down for serious reasons."

The Pope's desire opens the door for Fr. Kolvenbach to be re-elected rather than replaced in 2008, unless he presents his resignation.

Born in Druten, Holland in 1928, Fr. Kolvenbach was elected the 29th Superior General of the Society of Jesus in September of 1983 during the 33rd General Congregation.

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'Colonel Sanders' asks Pope for special sandwich blessing

Louisville, Ky., Feb 23, 2007 (CNA) - The U.S. based Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) company, long known for its fast-food chicken is planning to sell fish for the first time and has asked for Pope Benedict XVI’s blessing.

For Lent this year the company is introducing a “Fish Snacker Sandwich,” and has sent a letter to the Holy Father, letting him know.

"This is the first time KFC has ever served fish nationally, and we believe that the new sandwich could make it easier and more affordable for Catholics to observe the tenets of their faith," KFC President Greg Dedrick wrote in a letter to the Pope earlier this month.

According to the AP, the letter asks the Holy Father for a special blessing and offers him a sample of the sandwich.

John O’Reilly, chief marketing officer for KFC said the sandwich was launched with Catholics in mind.  Traditionally restaurant seafood sales go up during the Lenten Season, when Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays.

Laurie Schalow, a spokeswoman for KFC, told the AP that the Vatican confirmed receiving the letter and the company is hopeful for a response in the next week.

The sandwich is made of Alaskan pollock, the largest food fish resource in the world and a fish commonly used to make breaded and battered fish products.

KFC is owned by Yum Brands Inc. of Louisville, which also owns seafood outlet Long John Silver's. Schalow said the sandwich shouldn't put KFC and Long John Silver's at odds.

"The reason we decided to do this is our consumers showed an interest," Schalow said.

KFC, which has 5,500 restaurants around the country, test marketed the sandwich last year. The reviews were good, so the decision was made to sell the item nationally, Schalow said. The sandwich will remain on sale only during Lent, she said.

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Forgiveness comes naturally for someone with a converted heart, says Argentinean bishop

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Feb 23, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Marcelo Martorell of Puerto Iguazu said this week, “Jesus speaks to us of forgiveness, not as a heroic act of the saints, but as an act that should come naturally for someone with a converted heart.”

The bishop said Christians enlightened by the Gospel should stand in contrast to sinners in the area of charity and forgiveness “because the Lord demands of us true conversion, which makes us see mankind and life in a distinct way.”

“To him that strikes you on one cheek, give him the other. Give to all who ask of you.  Even if sometimes we cannot follow these words to the letter, we must capture the profound meaning that the Lord wants to give them, which is to abstain from taking vengeance for offenses, to be ready to do good to anyone and to give as much as possible, even more than what is due,” the bishop said.

Bishop Martorell noted that the Lord “wants us to practice a greater justice animated by the love of Him who came to teach us, being the first to practice it, giving his life for a rebellious and ungrateful people, dying for us when we were still sinners.”

“Often we are not capable of understanding nor of living his teaching,” he continued, “because in order to do so we must be born again in Christ, putting on Him, being born of a new life, which leads us away from every kind of selfishness, which encloses us in on ourselves and makes us vulnerable to every kind of offense.”

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State cannot do without Church’s social work, says Spanish archbishop

Madrid, Spain, Feb 23, 2007 (CNA) - In his weekly pastoral letter, Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia said the collaboration between the Church and the State in the area of charity is “essential” because “there will always be suffering that requires consolation and help” and “there will always be situations of material need in which assistance that imparts concrete love of neighbor is essential.”

Faced with these problems, “it is not good that the State seeks to absorb everything into itself, denying the action of the individual and of social groups that make up society,” the archbishop stated, underscoring that “politics do not have an exclusive roll in society.”

What the suffering human being needs most, he continued, “is affectionate personal attention and no bureaucracy can provide that.”  In fact, he said, the State “will never be able to give love.”

Therefore, Archbishop Garcia-Gasco went on, “it is essential for the good of humanity that the State apply the principle of subsidiarity and thus recognize and support the initiatives that spring forth from different social forces.”

The Church is part of “these living forces of social and charitable action,” he said, as she “provides not only material assistance to all mankind, but also peace and concern for the soul, which are often more necessary than material help.”

Therefore, the Church “encourages the lay faithful to participate directly in public life,” the archbishop stressed.  Political activity can by properly seen as “social charity,” he noted, as charity “should animate the entire existence of the Catholic faithful.”

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Calif. Supreme Court rules to preserve Mt. Soledad cross, publish court decision

Ann Arbor, Mich., Feb 23, 2007 (CNA) - The California Supreme Court on Wednesday affirmed the precedent-setting decision of a lower court, which upheld the right of the people of San Diego to transfer the Mt. Soledad veterans memorial and cross to the federal government.

The Court also denied an attempt by the ACLU to prevent the publication of the lower court decision.  The ACLU, who filed the suit against the City of San Diego to remove the cross, was seeking to have the decision suppressed so that it could not be used against them in future lawsuits.

The Thomas More Law Center, a national, public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich., represented San Diegans for the Mt. Soledad National War Memorial in the successful appeal and in opposing the petition to the California Supreme Court. The Law Center also filed a lengthy objection to the ACLU’s request for depublication.

“This is a major victory for religious freedom, the democratic process, and for the people of San Diego who voted overwhelmingly to preserve the historic Mt. Soledad veterans memorial and cross,” said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel for the Law Center.

“It was also important for us to defeat the ACLU’s sinister plan to have the decision of the California appellate court depublished,” he added in a written statement. “This appellate court decision will forever be a stumbling block for the ACLU.” 

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Fr. Pavone weighs in on South Dakota Senate's rejection of abortion ban

Pierre, S.D., Feb 23, 2007 (CNA) - Attaining the “goal of justice” has to be a top priority for all legislators, said a national pro-life leader in view of the recent 8-1 vote of a South Dakota Senate committee to defer consideration of a bill to prohibit most abortions.

"The task of restoring protection to the unborn child is in a different category than any other legislative consideration," said Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life.

"It directly pertains to the most fundamental demands of justice and human rights,” he continued. “Whatever path we take to get to that goal, reaching the goal of justice for all has to be the top priority of every legislator and citizen."

A South Dakota Senate committee on Wednesday rejected the bill, which passed in the Legislature last week with a 45-25 vote. The bill would have allowed abortions only in cases of rape, incest, a threat of severe injury to a woman's health and to save a woman's life. Supporters had hoped to use the new law to prompt the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its 1973 ruling declaring the right to an abortion.

State Rep. Gordon Howie, the bill's sponsor, said he would try to bring the bill to the full Senate anyway, reported the Associated Press.

The bill could be forced out of committee with a one-third vote of the full Senate, but even key supporters are not hopeful that the bill would not survive a court challenge.

Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, called abortion “a scourge on South Dakota,” and he called HB1293 a “noble effort.” But he also said the bill would not withstand a court challenge. “I do not believe there is any chance it will,” he said.

Greenfield, who also is chairman of South Dakota Right to Life, is not on the committee, but he testified as an opponent to the new ban.

This is the third time in four years that measures to restrict abortion in South Dakota were defeated.

Last year, the Legislature passed an even stricter ban, in which the only exception was to save the mother's life, but it was rejected by the voters in November. 

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EU pressures pro-life countries to enact pro-abortion laws

Budapest, Hungary, Feb 23, 2007 (CNA) - Pro-lifers are claiming that the EU is putting pressure on countries to abandon their pro-life laws and to comply with a pro-abortion agenda.

Biblical Family Advocates said it learned recently that the EU is putting pressure on countries to abandon their pro life laws. The group cites the article, “EU Threatens to Withdraw Aid to Nicaragua if Pro-Life Law Remains,” to claim that the EU is putting pressure on a country that receives aid from it.

“I was also amazed recently that the country of Malta, an EU member country, was feeling pressure from the EU and the UN to abandon their pro life laws,” said Phil Magnan of Biblical Family Advocates.

The pro-life groups say the EU’s recent actions run counter to messages they received from EU representative Ralf von Ameln, directorate-general of education and culture, during a meeting Dec. 7. The meeting included representatives from United for Life, Schreeeuw om Leven, (Cry for Life), a pro life advocacy group based in the Netherlands, Operation Outcry, and Biblical Family Advocates.

In a press release, the pro-life groups say that Von Ameln assured them that the EU would not force countries whose laws forbid abortion and same-sex marriage to change their laws. He also assured that the EU would not override its member nations’ laws banning abortion as the United States Supreme Court had done when it overrode the laws of all 50 states in Roe v Wade.

EU Commissioner Gunther Verheugen, in an article dated October 2002, “EU Commissioner promises Malta EU won’t push abortion ever”, stated that the EU had no jurisdiction over abortion or similar issues and this position was "definite, absolute and forever".

Verheugen reportedly "assured Malta's Archbishop Joseph Mercieca .... that the European Union would never take jurisdiction over abortion. The Times of Malta reports that Verheugen stressed that the EU would never tell Malta or any other member state to legislate in favor of abortion."

The pro-life group noted that the EU passed a pro-abortion resolution in 2002. Pro-lifers say they wonder if that resolution was meant to create the future environment to force member states to abandon their pro-life laws. Magnan wonders if the EU can be trusted.

Pro-lifers are asking the EU to explain its recent actions. 

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Ash Wednesday Mass interrupted by obscene recordings

Santa Fe, Ariz., Feb 23, 2007 (CNA) - The Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, New Mexico was evacuated during noon Mass on Ash Wednesday, after three CD players duct-taped under pews began blaring foul and sexually explicit language, reported The Associated Press.

The players were programmed to go off when parishioners were in the middle of Mass, police Capt. Gary Johnson said.

Church staff personnel removed the CD players, took them to the basement and called police, who sent a bomb squad. Two of the players were blown up. Police kept the third one for analysis after determining the players were not dangerous.

Johnson told the AP that police would "run the full gamut" of tests on the player, including checking for fingerprints or DNA and tracing its components.

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